Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

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An encounter between inmates and officials to transform the prison space through a co-management model.

About You
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Your idea
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Plot your innovation within the mosaic of solutions
Which of these barriers is the primary focus of your work?

Which of the principles is the primary focus of your work?

If you believe some other barrier or principle should be included in the mosaic, please describe it and how it would affect the positioning of your initiative in the mosaic:

This field has not been completed

Describe your program or new idea in one sentence.

An encounter between inmates and officials to transform the prison space through a co-management model.

What makes your initiative uniquely positioned to create change in your community?

One of the main consequences after entering a prison is the “prisonization effect”, which consists in the assimilation of habits, uses, and culture inside the prison by the prisoners.
That’s why people understand that prison is a delinquency school. To win the fight against prisonization is an essential challenge.
It’s only possible to achieve this goal by a transforming model, in which prison stops having a prisonization effect and produces a socialization effect while the prison sub-culture is eliminated and it’s created and educational space.
In this new built prison reality, prison becomes a meeting, communication, and meditation space.

Describe how you organize and carry out your work?

Professional representation:
Multidisciplinary team: It represents the higher decision organ from UTE. It’s formed by all members of the organization, with special relevance in the surveillance officials’ area because they are the first line of intervention inside the penitentiary and it allows the monitoring of inmates’ therapeutic process 24 hours a day.

FUNCTIONS: establishes general acting guidelines; plans activities for each day and distribution of therapeutic groups, solves everyday vicissitudes, proposes who goes in and out of the Unit, proposes derivations to outside therapeutic resources.
Tutors: tutorships are by surveillance officials. There is a change in role of the official, who turns into an educator.

FUNCTIONS: has a detailed record of the group and each member inside it; informs and makes proposal about the inmates of the group; proposes which companion can go out because of therapeutic reasons or change groups.

Inmates’ representation:
Support group: It’s formed by inmates already immersed in their therapeutic process. They represent the first line of action among inmates.

FUNCTIONS: proposes subjects in relation with the daily performance of the unit; recievs new inmates and informs them about the performance of the therapeutic unit, monitors the assigned inmates in their groups, controls the activities inside the Unit, watches the fulfilment of assignments established by the multidisciplinary team.

Group of delegates: They are the inmates that begin to positively distinguish inside the groups and in the future they can be proposed to be inmates for support. They are co-responsible of the different commission named by the multidisciplinary team.

FUNCTIONS: Controls tasks assigned by supporting inmates from their respective groups and confirmed by the multidisciplinary team: supply office, workshops, list for doctor’s visit, access to cells.

Work Commissions: Participation and control instrument of the activities held in UTE: educational workshops, cultural and recreation workshops, Sport, health service, hygiene and nutrition.

FUNCTIONS: stimulates and motives the daily participation of all UTE’s inmates.

The assembly: It’s a complementary instrument.

FUNCTIONS: informs about important subjects that inmates must know because of its transcendence; serves as an encounter point to think in crisis situations inside the UTE; prepares and informs about relevant meetings with the society during the year (Meetings with the society and Christmas with family meetings).

What is your plan to scale and expand your innovation into your community and beyond?

At the present there are two spaces, UTE1 and UTE2. The goal is to create in the next years the UTE 3. With this, the main part of the inmates and modules would be part of the UTE.

Since many years it is being offered reclining courses for multidisciplinary teams from different prisons in Spain, which goal is to reproduce the model in the rest of Spain.
It’s being reproduced in the following penitentiary centers:


Today we count with the support of the General Direction of penitentiary institutions after many years of difficulties. Since the official point of view we represent, today, a reference for the rest of the penitentiary centers.
The plan for this year is the expansion into five new centers and the reinforcement of the one that we are working on. This activity will start next month in the Teixeiro center, Coruña.

What other resources, institutional, or policy needs would be necessary to help sustain and scale up your idea?

Increase the number of professionals.

Describe your impact in one sentence, commenting on both the individual and community levels.

Each day in which an inmate stays in the UTE, it’s supposed a day of light in a life (in most cases in the darkness), because it’s a space where he is not going to feel alone and he is going to feel loved.

What impact has your work achieved to date?
Number of individuals served

There are 430 inmates in the UTE from a total of 1,200 inside the prison.
Since the beginning of the project, thousands of people have been benefited. But the most important detail is represented by the 663 derived inmates to different external therapeutic resources through the application of the art. 183 of the Penitentiary Regulation.
90% of the derived inmates didn’t commit a crime again.

Community impact

The UTE for the penitentiary community represents a space where coexist young people, adults, women, recidivists, people with conflictive life stories inside prison.
It’s a safe space because they face the conflicts (everyday and outside conflicts) with dialogue and thinking with other inmates and professionals.
It’s a space free from drugs because the same inmates defend it.
It’s a health space. It exists the very powerful Health workshop, coordinated by professionals and inmates, where the inmates turn into health agents for their companions and for the rest of the prison. We have got big achievements referring to join VIH/AIDS treatment and other diseases.
School has a sense that never had before in the inmates’ life: 50% of UTE’s inmates participate in a school activity.
There are young people that the only jail they know is the UTE so they are never going to know de school of delinquency.
There’s no place for silence law, so inmates confront negative attitudes among other inmates.

Society at large

The Therapeutic and Educational Unit (UTE) is good to the society in two senses: UTE’s inmate enters into a personal thinking and changing process that leads him to an encounter with the society. This will be transcendent for recidivism levels. On the other hand, not only he is not damaging the society but he turns into a useful and profitable element for the society since its social rehabilitation.
Since its beginning the UTE lives in a constant opening, communication and meeting with the society. Representatives from diverse organizations (social, political, judicial, and cultural, etc.) participate in meetings with inmates. Their point of reference are the “Meetings with the Society”, which last a week; the “Families Party”, held in Christmas, when the families go inside the UTE and participate in a very emotional ludic day; and “Meetings with high-school students from Asturian schools”
At the present we are coordinating an educational project in prisons, “Creating changing spaces” for the Acción Grundtvig from the European Union, where England, Germany and Austria participate.
We have also participate (during 2005 and 2006) in training courses organized by Consejo del Poder Judicial and by Escuela Judicial for judges and prosecutors.
We have received many awards: Penitentiary Merit Medal in 1999, granted by the Ministry of Interior; Human Rights Award, granted by Asociación de Jóvenes Abogados from Spain in 2005; and the Asturias Medal, highest honor granted by the Asturian community.
The “Meetings with high-school students from Asturian schools” are an activity to prevent alcohol and drugs consumption that started in 1994. 15,000 students have participated in them and it’s a contribution that inmates do to the society.

What measure do you use to gauge your impact and why?

Direct derivations to different external therapeutic resources.
Coordination with different foreign NGOs that collaborate with this project.
School of parents, an activity of the UTE’s Relatives and Friends Association, managed by a professional of the multidisciplinary team.
Training courses for inmates.
The weekly development of 35 therapeutic groups.
The absence of drug consumption inside the UTE.
Lack of violence.
Weekly meetings with high-schools.

After two years, a team of physiologists of the Universidad de Oviedo is finishing an evaluation of this project.

How is your initiative currently being financed and how would you finance further expansion and/or replication?

The project is financed with the budget assigned to the Penitentiary Institution. The professionals don’t receive an economic plus for their double work. This activity is absolutely voluntary.

Provide information on your current finances and organization:

Number of staff:
41 Surveillance officials
9 Educators
3 Teachers
2 Psychologists
1 Social worker
1 Occupational Monitor

Total: 57 professionals

Who are your potential partners and allies?

State Administration

Who are your potential investors?

State Administration

The Story
What is the origin of this innovation? Tell us your story.

It would be in the commitment of the social underprivileged sectors of the society. Since I was young, while I was doing volunteer social work in neighborhoods of my city, I was wondering why some people did have enough to cover their necessities and others, because they were born in a specific place and environment, didn’t have right for anything except suffering the hostility of a family environment that would end in reformatories and prisons. It’s an irony that these people have no other alternative than prison.

In 1980 I started to work in a prison. It was no surprise in theory: It was the common idea that a citizen had of what it is a prison. But another thing was to live the pure and hard reality, the prison as a school of delinquency, as values’, illusions’ and hope’s extermination camp.

To find an explanation, an answer and a solution to this it wasn’t a sensitivity and commitment problem, it was a mental health one, because this reality hurts the professionals who also suffer from “the prisonization effect”.

In prisons there are only victims: victims of their family and social environment, victims of themselves. Professionals are also victims that turn sometimes into tyrants inside the penitentiary environment.

After this thinking, one arrives to the conclusion that the innovative idea is the result of the process, history, journey, an attitude change before life.

But of course, this project doesn’t’ come from a more or less good thinking but from the experience of many years of work, looking for the more vulnerable points to generate ways to debilitate the system and open a way of hope and transformation of the system.

Since the beginning I had a clear goal: to win the trust of the inmates and to establish with them a dynamic of participation that allowed them be protagonists of the possible improvements that were needed. So, in the course of many years, I have been developing different social-cultural dinamization projects.

After years of experience I realized that there was an insuperable limitation, not only for me but for the whole penitentiary system that it was the appearance of the drug inside the system. So there is a change in the profile that gets into prisons.

The dynamic of life in prisons dance around drugs: there are drug addicts and mafias that get organized inside the prisons.

Intervention programs are eclipsed by the new reality that dominates and controls the penitentiary. The means used in the institution (educating, occupational and productive activities) are not well used. The only goal is to use them to get more penitentiary benefits.

In this context, in 1992, Begoña, a social worker partner, and I started the process that leaded us to the creation of the UTE in the old Oviedo prison (Asturias).

The project started with five inmates who formed a group which today is called “Therapeutic Group”.

The work model of UTE is not only focused on the inmate but it’s extended to the environmental context, the prison, eliminating the penitentiary sub-culture and creating a sanitated space where the intervention is possible and guarantees a positive process of change in the inmates.

In this journey I have proved that the intervention developed in different penitentiary systems is insufficient because it doesn’t give a comprehensive answer to the situation of the private person in freedom. We can only talk about authentic social rehabilitation processes from a comprehensive answer that embrace the individual and its environment.

Please provide a personal bio. Note this may be used in Changemakers marketing material.

Since I was very young I was in the social voluntary field in poor neighborhoods of my city. The direct contact with this reality made me think and made me enter into the Socialist Workers Spanish party in 1974. I abandoned my Law studies and I devoted myself to the political and union activity. In 1976 I was designated Secretary of the Socialist Federation Asturian organization.

In 1980 I left active politics and I entered as penitentiary official in the Penitentiary of Barcelona. It was very gratifying to work as a surveillance official because it gave me the possibility to be in the first line of their recovery.

The first three years were very hard. I had to deal with the systematic violation of human rights and generalized corruption. Although democracy arrived in 1978, it was still absent in the penitentiary world.

After the first years I was designated educator in 1984 and I started a dinamization process inside the prison which involved a large number of professionals. This provoked a substantial change in the life conditions in prison. We can say that we achieved a humanization of a center, characterized for its conflictive and its discriminated repression.

In 1989 I went to Asturias and I started to work in the Oviedo prison, where I started the process –together with my social worker partner Begoña– that ended in today’s Therapeutic Educational Unit.

I’m a self-taught person although I have taken some specific courses; in 2004 I finished my studies in Criminology at Universidad de Oviedo. But my real university has been my 27 years inside the penitentiary system where every day is a challenge and an instance for personal growth.

I was invited to join the competition by an Ashoka-Canada partner ELIZABETH ARAUJO. My only incentive is to spread the project at a worldwide scale.